Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has asked President Muhammadu Buhari to rescind his assent to the Companies and Allied Matters Act, 2020 [CAMA 2020].
The body told him to send the legislation back to the National Assembly to address its fundamental flaws, including removal of “repressive provisions particularly sections 839, 842, 843, 844 and 850 contained in Part F of the Act, and any other similar provisions.”
“Please note that SERAP has instructed its Legal Counsel Femi Falana, SAN to take all appropriate legal actions on our behalf should your government fail and/or neglect to act as requested”, a letter dated 22 August, 2020 warned.
Signed by deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, SERAP urged Buhari to instruct Registrar-General of the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), Garba Abubakar, and Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, Abubakar Malami, not to implement the CAMA 2020 until the legislation is repealed.
The rights group said the CAMA law gives the government discretionary powers to arbitrarily withdraw, cancel or revoke the certificate of any association, suspend and remove trustees, take control of finances of any association, and to merge two associations without their consent and approval of their members.
“Rather than taking concrete measures to improve the legal environment and civic space that would ensure respect for human rights and media freedom, your government has consistently pursued initiatives to restrict the enjoyment of citizens’ human rights. These rights are protected from impairment by government action.
“These restrictions, coupled with repressive broadcasting codes and Nigerian security agencies’ relentless crackdown on peaceful protesters and civil society, demonstrate the government’s intention to suppress and take over independent associations.
“By seeking to suspend and remove trustees, and appoint interim managers for associations, the government seems to want to place itself in a position to politicise the mandates of such association, and to undermine the ideas that the right to freedom of association and related rights are supposed to protect in a democratic society,” it said.
SERAP said the government granting itself the powers to suspend and remove trustees of legally registered associations and to take control of their bank accounts constitute an effective restraint on human rights.
The body said it considers the CAMA 2020, “the most repressive legislation in Nigeria’s history, especially given the unlawful and impermissible restrictions contained in Part F of the Act. Sections 831, 839, 842, 843, 844 and 850 of the Act are manifestly inconsistent with sections 36, 39 and 40 of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999.”
Under section 831[i][ii], the government through the CAC is empowered to treat any unregistered association as part of an already registered association, and without any lawful justifications whatsoever.
The government also has the power to treat two or more associations as a single association if the associations have the same trustees.
Section 839 and  of the Act also grants the government through the CAC the powers to suspend and remove the trustees of any legally registered association, and to appoint an interim manager or managers to run the affairs of any such association, if CAC believes that there is misconduct, mismanagement, and fraud in the association, or on the basis of undefined public interest.
Sections 842, 843 and 844 grants the government through the Corporate Affairs Commission overly broad powers and discretion to arbitrarily, unlawfully and unilaterally regulate the finances of any association, and to take control and take over bank accounts lawfully belonging to legally registered associations under Part F of the CAMA 2020.
Section 850[e] empowers the government through the Corporate Affairs Commission to arbitrarily and unilaterally withdraw, cancel or revoke the certificate of registration of any duly and legally registered association.
“We would be grateful if the requested action and measures are taken within 14 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter.
“If we have not heard from you by then, the Registered Trustees of SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions to compel you and your government to take these measures in the public interest”, SERAP told Buhari.